cool davis

How PG&E’s “EV” rate schedule benefits solar homeowners

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We have had the fortune of helping more than 50 electric vehicle owners go solar. As shared in prior posts, fueling your car with solar electricity is the least expensive form of (automotive) transport: Your amortized cost to generate solar electricity is ~8 cents per kWh, and you yield about four miles per kWh of electricity. Trite but true: Driving on sunshine makes sense.

Better yet, when you enjoy an electric vehicle you can employ PG&E’s “EV” rate schedule. This time-of-use rate program incents EV drivers to charge their car (and shift other electricity demand) to “off-peak” hours, namely 11 pm to 7 am, Monday through Friday, and all weekend/holiday hours, sans 3-7 pm.

Here are PG&E’s “EV” rates per kWh:

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  • Peak (2-9 pm, M-F): $0.33 (winter); $0.48 (summer)

  • Part Peak (7am-2pm; 9-11pm M-F): $0.20 (winter); $0.26 (summer)

  • Off Peak (11pm-7am M-F; weekends/holidays all hours except 3-7pm): $0.13

When your solar panels make more energy than your home uses, you are credited by PG&E via their net-metering program. Hence, the greater the delta (solar generation less household consumption) during “peak” periods, your monetary credits are amplified.

Generally, Repower homeowners who enroll in PG&E’s EV rate schedule only generate ~80% of the electricity they use to cover 100% of their electricity costs. This is simply due to the time-of-use rate schedule and the advantage of buying electricity at a low rate and getting credited at nearly 4x. Very cool.

With apologies for the bevy of metrics, let’s review an example. Below is the electricity use for a fairly standard Davis homeowner who charges their electric vehicle 12,000 miles per year at home.

Pre-solar electricity use and costs (on PG&E’s “E-1” program):

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We then sized and modeled a solar system to eliminate the homeowner’s electricity bill: A 4.8 kW, 15-panel system installed at 270-degree azimuth (due west), no shading. The solar panels are projected to generate 6,493 kWh in year one, thus covering 70% of the homeowner’s electricity use.

If the homeowner did not own an electric vehicle, they would (upon going solar) enroll in PG&E’s “TOU-A” rate schedule. Like the EV rate, TOU-A values electricity based on demand (“peak” period is 3-8 pm), but there’s little difference between peak and off-peak periods.

Solar economics under the default E-TOU (A) rate schedule:

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The homeowner’s year-end, true-up cost would be $645 — the solar system is too small. This is not bad, but …

… under the EV rate schedule, the homeowner generates significant time-of-generation credits/leverage. Their year-end bill would be $108.

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Simple but lucrative: The homeowner will save an additional $500 per year through the EV rate schedule. Contact us today with questions and/or if you’d like a free solar assessment.

Purchased a home and want to add solar panels? Five considerations to ponder

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This week, we have been engaged by three new homeowners to help them evaluate solar. Thereby, we begin with a simple, open-ended question: Why solar, why now? Responses vary, but generally their motive is twofold: Why not, since I just bought my home; and, PG&E’s rates are only going to go up. While we agree with the latter, we believe the former warrants consideration.

Before adding solar to your recently purchased home, here are five considerations:

1. The condition of your roof. Since new homebuyers have recently had their roof inspected, they have an objective evaluation regarding the condition and remaining life of their roof. In simple terms, if your roof has less than 10 years of remaining/warrantied life, you do not want to install solar (on such roof planes); if your roof has 10+ years, you’re in good shape.

2. Historical/future electricity use. Since new homeowners have limited (or zero) electricity use data, we recommend one of four approaches (to forecast future use and accurately size and model their prospective solar system):

  • Live in your home for 12 months and, thereby, quantify how much electricity you will use.

  • Wait until you have occupied your home for six months -- particularly 1-2 months of summer use, when electricity demand peaks. (Thereby, we can model 12 months of electricity demand based on your use pattern and comparable homes).

  • Employ comparable homes’ electricity use (based on their vintage, neighborhood, size, occupancy, etcetera) to model your home’s future electricity use. Fortunately, we have several hundred data sets — electricity use patterns for homes in all neighborhoods in our community — to approximate future use.

  • If it’s not too late, request 12 months of PG&E data from the home seller. Oftentimes, this is a futile effort, but it’s worth trying.

3. Home improvements. Stating the obvious: Many new homeowners improve their homes. Adding a pool and/or hot tub will increase your electricity use, as would replacing your furnace with an electric heat pump (an increasingly common practice for Repower homeowners). Conversely, replacing windows, adding insulation, or installing a variable speed pool pump reduces your electricity use. In all cases, we model the impact vis-a-vis solar system sizing.

4. Electric vehicle. If you own — or intend to purchase, in the next 12-24 months — an eV, you’d  want to factor future charging of your car into the sizing of your solar system. We find that eVs travel 4 miles per kWh of electricity. The math is simple: Take the number of miles/year you anticipate driving and multiply it by the percentage of charging you believe will be done at home (versus your workplace, public chargers, etc.). Then, divide the number by 4 to quantify additional electricity use (in kWh). For example, if you intend to drive 10,000 miles per year and charge your car 80% of the time at home (fueling 8,000 miles), you will consume 2,000 kWh of electricity.

5. Your electrical panel. Though adding solar does not increase your electrical demand, we need to ensure your electrical panel has sufficient capacity (or space) to accommodate the solar inverter. Furthermore, we will evaluate non-solar changes to your electrical demand — car charger, spa, swimming pool, heat pump, etcetera — to determine your panel’s amenability. (We perform load calculations and review your future electricity use with the city or county to ensure solar will work.)

 Net-net, going solar is simple, but there are a few nuances worthy of consideration … particularly if you recently purchased a home. Feel free to contact us to learn more and receive a free solar assessment.

Valley Clean Energy is here: Choice is good for solar homeowners

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Change can be a good thing. Or, it can be bad. Or, somewhere in between.

Choice, however, is good. If you had one option — for anything you do or buy — you’re stuck. You have no choice and must opt for the sole solution.

Choice enables consumers to make a decision, to weigh options and decide what’s in their best interest. Choice makes markets healthy and efficient, thus benefiting consumers.

For the past few generations, Yolo County residents have not had a choice regarding their electricity: PG&E, the de facto monopoly, was it. That ceased in June with the debut of Valley Clean Energy (VCE). Though nothing changed with our electricity delivery, customer service and billing, VCE was a change that confused some. This is understandable: Consumers now had a choice.

As we’ve shared in prior posts (here, here and here), if you do not have solar panels, VCE is a no brainer: Participate and you’ll save a few bucks each month while reducing your carbon footprint. Or, stick with PG&E and pay more to an investor-owned utility for dirtier energy. Case closed.

Furthermore, if you have solar or are considering going solar, VCE is a viable option. It provides solar homeowners with a choice for how to net-meter their electricity.

When VCE commenced its solar net-metering program in June, we identified and shared a few (in our opinion) flaws to their accounting methodology. In short order, VCE staff absorbed our input, consulted the public, and amended their solar program. This efficient, transparent and productive process evidences the virtue of a publicly-controlled program. (Imagine trying to get PG&E to modify their solar program … no chance.)

Effective January 1, 2019, VCE’s new net-metering program will take effect and homeowners with solar will have a choice. Here’s a quick summary:

  • If you installed solar before June 1, 2018 you will stick with your annual true-up date (that you currently employ with PG&E) and you will be enrolled in VCE’s program at your true-up.

  • If you went solar after June 1, 2018, your annual true-up date will be in March.

  • In both cases, your net-metering accounting will occur every month (versus once/year with PG&E). At the end of your 12-month solar accounting calendar, your true up ($) will be the same, except …

  • … with VCE, if your solar system generates more electricity than you use in a given month, you will receive an additional one-cent per kWh credit.

Importantly, when you go solar, you receive “permission to operate” from PG&E and you are grandfathered in for 20 years under the prevailing (California Public Utilities Commission mandated) net-metering program. Participating in VCE’s net-metering program does not impact your 20-year utility agreement. (This is critical; we received written acknowledgement from PG&E.)

So, congratulations, you now have a choice. Options are good and, for solar homeowners, VCE will put a few extra dollars in your pocket without harming your solar interconnection agreement.

Feel free to stop by our workspace or contact us with questions. Viva community choice!

50,000 Model 3s in 90 Days: Tesla is Tipping the World

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Tesla reported earnings yesterday. To the surprise of most experts (!), Elon crushed it. In three months, Tesla sold more than 80,000 electric vehicles, including 52,339 Model 3 sedans. And, they made money, registering a $312 million profit and generating more than $800 million in free cash flow. Well done.

We tweeted last month about Tesla’s extraordinary business model and outcomes:

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Further amplifying the above, from yesterday’s Wired story:

At the end of the quarter, Tesla actually welcomed existing customers as volunteers to help deliver cars, as that became the new bottleneck. “I’ve never heard of a case where customers volunteered their time to help a company succeed,” said Musk. “That’s amazing. It chokes me up actually.”

Great news for Tesla, but more important, for the future of electric vehicles (and, thereby, our planet) … an American auto manufacturer is making money selling all-electric cars. Amen.

We have had the fortune of helping more than 60 electric vehicle owners (including ~15 Tesla owners) go solar. The economics of solar are good; solar + electric vehicles are outstanding.

A few anecdotes:

  • Increasingly, we are installing 240A eV outlets in concert with solar systems, in advent of a future/soon-to-come electric vehicle (and its charger). Very simple, efficient and inexpensive process, particularly when bundled with the solar engineering and permit. (And, you get the 30% tax credit on your additional electrical work.)

  • Refresher on the math for increasing your solar system’s size to accommodate eV charging: Simply take the total number of miles/year you anticipate driving (e.g., 12,000), multiply by the percentage of time you will charge at home (e.g., 75%), and divide the number of at-home miles by 4 (e.g., 9,000/4) to calculate the additional electricity load in kWh (in this scenario, 2,250 kWh).

  • The amortized cost to generate solar electricity is ~$0.08 per kWh. Hence, your cost to drive electric is about two cents per mile. (Add in the fact that there’s no maintenance and the picture’s even rosier.)

  • All electric vehicle owners should switch to PG&E’s “EV” rate schedule … the benefits are amplified if you have solar. (We model multiple PG&E rate schedules for Repower homeowners … in most all cases, switching to “EV” is the best case.)

  • We’re working with a number of churches in the community, helping them go solar and install eV chargers … all churches see it as a community benefit, and thus public availability of chargers is going to increase significantly — via churches, local governments, businesses, apartments, hotels, et al — in the near future.

Want to learn more? Feel free to contact us and/or attend a Davis Electric Vehicle Association (DEVA) meeting at our office.

Understanding your PG&E-Valley Clean Energy Bill

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Valley Clean Energy (VCE) commenced service as an alternative electricity provider June 1. As discussed here, this is great news … your electricity costs will be reduced by ~2-3% and you will enjoy (though you can’t see/taste/touch the electrons!) cleaner electricity. (If you’re among the 7,000 property owners in Davis, Woodland and unincorporated Yolo County who have already gone solar, this article has no utility for you; here’s a recent article about Valley Clean Energy’s Net Energy Metering program.)

Now that we’re a few months into VCE’s service, many homeowners are trying to interpret their new (PG&E + VCE) electricity bill. Here’s a quick tutorial:

  • Page three of your PG&E statement quantifies your electricity use and charges. (Yes, July was a brutally warm month; electricity use/costs are quite high for most everyone.) Therein, you will see two additions:
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  1. A Generation Credit representing your Valley Clean Energy credit for the electricity generation component of your use.
  2. A Power Charge Indifference Adjustment, essentially the fee PG&E charges to participated in VCE.

Next, turn to page four to review “Details of VALLEY CLEAN ENERGY ALLIANCE Electric Generation Charges”. Per the below, there is a net charge of $93.28.

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Finally, simple math to determine how much you will pay relative to PG&E:

- VCE Electricity Generation Charge: $93.28

- Power Charge Indifference Adjustment: $43.90

- Less, PG&E Generation Credit: -$141.43

Hence, under the above scenario the homeowner saved $4.25 this month through VCE.

Annualized, this homeowner will save ~$40 for participating in VCE. It’s not enough to buy a bottle of Jordan cab, but perhaps you can enjoy a tasty meal at Mikuni’s.

Valley Clean Energy works.

Lions and tigers and ash on my solar panels, oh my!

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What a brutal few weeks it has been. Our climate is speaking to us: We can see, taste and smell it. And, our solar panels are not happy either. Analogous to what you see on your windshield, solar panels are clouded with ash from the Mendo Complex and Carr fires (of late) and others. Yuck … makes me want to hop on a tree stump and paraphrase Dr. Seuss: I AM THE LORAX AND I SPEAK FOR THE SOLAR PANELS, FOR THE PANELS HAVE NO TONGUES, NOW LISTEN TO ME!

We monitor 200+ Repower homeowners’ solar systems 2-3 times each week, evaluating their solar generation vis-a-vis National Renewable Energy Lab projections. Though it’s at the bottom of residual impacts of the fires — we’re simply talking about electricity generation! — our solar systems are generating 10-20% less electricity over the past 10 days. Some days are worse than others … Monday (August 6) was horribly suffocating for solar panels.

What to do? Here’s an excerpt from an article we composed last summer about keeping your solar panels clean:

As solar panels have no moving parts, the main area of maintenance is to keep them clean. We recommend to check the panels periodically especially during dry periods when precipitating dust occurs with the morning dew. Dirty panels can reduce electricity production as much as 8-12% (results from Department of Energy studies vary). Most dirt can be easily removed with water sprayed from a hose or from rainfall. (Do NOT use high-pressure sprayers as it can damage the seals around the frame.) Important: Wash/spray the panels in the morning to reduce drastic temperature changes. If you cannot ascend your roof, simply spray from the ground and let gravity do the trick … a small wave of water will cleanse most dust. Do not scrub the panels with any harsh materials. If a brush is needed, make sure it has soft bristles, or opt for a common window squeegee. If you notice rapid dirt build up—or bird droppings—then more frequent cleanings are warranted.

Feel free to contact us if you have questions about how and when to clean your solar panels. And, most important, let’s hope the fires cease and our air quality improves.

City of Davis Environmental Recognition Award: Business

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Tuesday night we were honored to receive the 2017 Environmental Recognition Award from the City of Davis. Candidly, it was humbling and nerve-wracking. Here's a link to a video of the ceremony, and below are my rambling, bambling thoughts:

This is like the Academy Awards for us climate geeks, the anti-Scott Pruit. Thank you very much.

I am a solar simpleton. Credit for this award goes to the several hundred property owners we have helped go solar, and the little organization that is the sustainability heartbeat of our community, Cool Davis.

Ours is a community that greatly values sustainability. We value walking and riding our bikes. Driving cars that get good gas mileage, that perhaps are electric. We value making our own energy and growing our own food. We value recycling. We value conserving. And, with all those values, any time any of us do these things, it puts more money back in to our community, because we’re not paying more for gas or electricity or food.

Hence, sustainability to me is not just simply about reducing our GHGs and carbon footprint, but it’s about building a sustainable economy. But, our values have no value if we fail to make an investment in our community. We’re simply winking in the dark, kinda kidding ourselves. Because without an investment, our values are just that: They have no value.

I would like to thank the Council, the Natural Resources Commission, blah blah, mumble mumble.

Past recipients include several of our friends, colleagues, and partners in the climate change fight ... here's a list of businesses that have been honored:

1995 – Ridge Builders Group, Inc.
1996 – Davis Energy Group
1997 – Davis Food Co–op
1998 – Tandem Properties, Inc.
1999 – Calgene LLC
2000 – (none)
2001 – Davis Food Co–Op
2002 – (none)
2003 – Screaming Squeegee Screen Printing & Embroidery
2004 – Sunmart, Inc.
2005 – Harrington Place
2006 – Island Ink Jet
2007 – (none)
2008 – MAK Design+Build, Inc.
2009 – Kiwi Tree
2010 – Hallmark Inn
2011 – Waste Busters
2012 – Café Italia
2013 – Da Vinci High Charter Academy
2014 – (none)
2015 – Neighborhood Partners, LLC
2016 – Sierra Energy
2017 – Indigo Hammond + Playle Architects;  Whole System Designs

Muchas gracias to all for providing us the opportunity to serve our community and planet. Again, we are honored.

Shade on my solar panels: What to do?

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A few times each week we tender discussions with homeowners (who are interested in going solar) that begin with a similar question: How do I know if my home/roof is a good candidate for solar, given shading from surrounding trees? Or, perhaps it's a statement: Solar won't work at my home because I have too much shading.

With kudos and thanks to THE GREAT Mike Kluk -- one of hundreds of terrific Cool Davis volunteers that propel our community's sustainability -- we now have an in-depth look at technologies we employ to help mitigate shading (and, thereby, maximize electricity generation of solar panels that are shaded). Mike just published an article in The Enterprise, Rooftop solar: Partial fixes for partial shade. If you're contemplating solar, it's well worth a read.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Mike to help inform his research and prose. An excerpt:

Every residential solar installation is unique. Roof size, angle, and orientation to the sun all affect production. But for installations where intermittent shading is an issue, the addition of optimizers or microinverters typically increases production from 15 to as much as 25%. Over the lifetime of a system, 20 to 30 years typically, that is a tremendous amount of power that you will not need to pay for.

Our take: Solar does not work for everyone. However, by employing SolarEdge's power optimizers, the downside of shading is mitigated.

Most important, we are happy to perform an assessment and quantify the impact of shading. The end result may be a no-go, but it's worth contemplating.

 

 

Giving thanks, one solar panel at a time

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We’ve had the fortune of helping several hundred property owners go solar. All told, more than 7,500 solar panels shine in our community via RepowerYolo’s guidance. To wit, thank you to property owners who have entrusted us and, thereby, are making the planet a better place, solar panel by panel.

We are occasionally asked, “What makes you tick?” (i.e., why do you do what you do?). Simply, what gets us up in the morning is the growing and aggregate environmental and financial impact of solar systems populated throughout our community. For kicks (and ticks), each solar panel, over its 25-year life, eliminates 7.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of:

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And, each panel, over its warrantied life, generates ~$3,000 in PG&E savings.

Combined, the 7,500 solar panels composing RepowerYolo systems are projected to eliminate 56,250 metric tons of CO2 (or the equivalent of taking 12,000 cars off the road, switching 1.9 million incandescent bulbs to LEDs, or planting 1.5 million tree seedlings). And, our clients are projected to save $22.5 million in utility bills. 

That makes us proud and thankful. Gobble gobble to you and yours.

P.S. - Click here to check out the EPA's Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator ... terrific tool that has yet to be closeted by the Trump Administration!

108 degrees. In San Luis Obispo. In late October.

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San Luis Obispo is known for its beauty, SLO pace and mild climate. To me, admittedly biased because I attended Cal Poly three decades ago, it's Utopia.

Two weeks ago -- October 24, 2017 -- San Luis sizzled, blistering to a record high of 108 degrees. Coincidentally, my oldest son, Scott, a freshman at Cal Poly, gave a speech that afternoon. The topic: Climate change. Irony of ironies.

The day and my son's speech, which was inspired in part by TED Talks delivered by Bill McKibben and Amory Lovins, reminded me of the wealth of climate change comrades in arms in our community. I engaged three colleagues to share three simple, every day tips to combat our changing climate.

First, my tireless and delightful friend, Lynne Nittler, who has and continues to do more to make our community and planet a better place than anyone I know:

  1. Eat less meat!  Try just one day a week.  If we all replaced beef with beans, the U.S. would meet 75% of its Paris Accord commitment!  The fall season veggies are delicious!
  2. Leave the car at home and ride a bike these beautiful fall days!  It's a pleasure, it spares the air, and it's good for your health.
  3. Check your doors and windows for leaks now and replace insulation/weather stripping as needed.  Winter is coming...we think.  (I happen to have a door that shifted with the heat this summer and the weather stripping needs to be changed now, so I'm noticing this.)

Next, a new acquaintance and long-time Davis resident, Bernadette Balics, proprietor of the awesome, impactful Ecological Landscape Design:

  1. Idle off: Turn off your car engine when you are parked and using your cell phone.
  2. Ride your bike or walk to the grocery store once.  Just try it out, on a beautiful day, when you don't have to buy a huge carload of groceries.
  3. Pay your gardener more to rake and sweep instead of using a leaf blower.  Or gift him/her with a high quality electric blower.

And, no what-to-do-about-our-changing-climate conversation would be complete without input from THE GREAT John Mott-Smith:

  1. "Just do one thing." Many people are numbed by the number and variety of actions they can take and don’t know how to choose. Michael Pollan opined that doing just one thing, no matter what it is, gets people off the dime and moving towards doing more.
  2. Reduce heating and AC. Assuming this is for folks in Davis, this is the biggest thing that is easy to do and can involve several actions, one of which should apply to anybody, old young, renter, owner; set the thermostat, check/replace your filter, open windows at night etc, for the really ambitious look into a whole house fan.
  3. When the Valley Clean Energy Alliance (VCEA) is activated in fall of 18, don’t opt out. Find out more now. Every household and business customer will be be at least 50% renewables by doing nothing other than staying in VCEA rather than opting out for PG&E.
  4. You only asked for three, but here is one more: Seriously consider solar. It is the best thing you can do. (Note: I swear we did not tickle this out of John!)

Your thoughts? Pragmatic and simple climate curing measures abound. Please share. Thanks.

Solar tax credit: Is death on the horizon?

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This happened Monday at the Kentucky Farm Bureau:

“I would do away with these incentives that we give to wind and solar."

So opined Scott Pruitt, Director of the Environmental Protection Agency. (Operative word: Protection.)

Anybody with half a pulse and a room-temperature-plus IQ could have seen it coming. After all, it’s written into the Koch Brothers’ playbook, and the Trump Administration is hell bent on aborting anything created or supported by the Obama Administration.

As we expressed a few weeks ago, it would defy logic, economics and common sense if the Republic Congress (rubber-stamped by President Trump) killed the clean energy tax credit. Why deter the fastest growing industry and most vibrant job creation engine in the U.S.? To spite the previous administration? To appease petroleum companies?

I’ve been accused of being overly optimistic, an ignoramus, by colleagues who have seen this coming. No chance, I’d pout, they can’t be that stupid (to dis-incentivize property owners from going solar). Pollutin’ Pruitt’s gonna do it, my environmental friends bemoaned.

I hope they’re wrong. I hope logic prevails, common sense is applied, job creation and environmental protection trump ideology.

But, my posture that there’s no financial urgency to go solar — net-metering is here to stay; the tax credit is written in to the tax code through 2020; PG&E rates continue to escalate — holds less weight. Any property owner who is contemplating solar, and wants to ensure they earn the 30% federal tax credit, should act soon. Before it’s too late.

Is there urgency to go solar? The times they are a-changin'

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Over the past few years, we have stressed — STRESSED — to property owners that there is NO urgency to go solar. Here’s a blog post elaborating our perspective on the lack of urgency, and the importance of doing your homework, when evaluating solar.

To quote Bobby Dylan, the times they are a-changin’.

Retrospective

We posited there was no urgency to go solar based on the three-to-four year windows (until expiration) of the 30% federal tax credit and PG&E’s Net-Metering program. Furthermore, solar panel prices eased a bit over the past few years, while PG&E’s rates continued to inflate (22% in 2016; another 8.5% increase this year). The tax credit is locked in, PG&E’s net-metering is galvanized, and the economics of going solar are improving. Take your time, we counseled.

Contemporary perspective

Regardless of your partisanship, solar is in the political cross hairs. Drill baby drill. Climate change is a hoax. Coal is our future. Political chestnuts and hyperbole voiced to rouse the base, but defying logic and economics: Solar is the fastest growing industry in the U.S. (adding jobs at 20x the rate of the economy), and solar has created more jobs than any industry in the country over the past 4-5 years. Furthermore, it’s quite libertarian to enable property owners to create their own energy, hence the bi-partisan extension of the federal tax credit at the end of 2015.

Over the past few months, domestic politics and the macro economy have defied logic and contemporary history:

1. Demand for Tier 1 (investment-grade) solar panels has exploded in China and India, thus constraining supply in the United States (and thereby slighting increasing solar panel prices for the first time).

2. On Friday, the US International Trade Agency (ITC) ruled in favor of two US-based, now insolvent solar panel manufacturers, Suniva and Solar World, agreeing their businesses were harmed due to the supply of lower cost, internationally-manufactured solar panels. The companies are seeking a 40-cent per watt tariff and a floor price of 78 cents per watt on imported solar modules. (In today’s market, such taxes would increase the cost of solar panels by 50-65%, with no viable US-made alternative.) President Trump is expected to issue a final ruling by year’s end. In the interim, large-scale solar project developers are hoarding supply of solar panels, thus increasing the cost (demand > supply) of solar modules for the entire industry.

3. Daily, there are rumblings that a Republican-inspired tax or budget bill will axe the clean energy tax credit, thus dis-incentivizing those who want to transition to clean energy. (Fact: The oil and gas industry receives more than 10X the tax credits/incentives as the clean energy industry. Another fact: Facts don’t matter.)

What to do? We cannot control the macro economy, the president’s actions, or congressional politicking. Instead, we are controlling what we can by securing as many high-quality solar panels as possible, in wake of what’s going on. Prices may increase, tax credits may perish, but solar in PG&E territory will continue to generate attractive, risk-adjusted investment returns. Property owners will continue to transition away from carbon while insulating themselves against future electricity rate increases, most likely with a greater urgency now.

Dylan, circa 1963:

The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is rapidly fadin’

And the first one now will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’

Expanding your solar system to charge an electric vehicle

Increasingly — at least once each week — we are contacted by solar homeowners who recently purchased, or are contemplating buying, an electric vehicle (eV). To wit, they are interested in adding panels to their current solar system to cover fueling (charging!) their new eV.

The good news: Solar-charged electric vehicles are the least expensive form of four-wheel transportation, let alone the virtue of aborting fossil fuels. For RepowerYolo homeowners, the average cost to generate solar electricity on their rooftop is 8 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). For every kWh of charge, eV owners garner ~4 miles of range. Hence, if you have an electric car that’s powered by sunshine, your cost to drive is ~2 cents per mile.

The challenge: While it’s technically (almost lego-esque) easy to add solar panels to a system, the process is, unfortunately, somewhat pricey. There are two scenarios:

1. Your current inverter has sufficient capacity to accommodate additional panels. If this is the case, then the challenge is locating and purchasing comparable (wattage) solar panels. Depending on the vintage of your current system, this could be simple, or it may be that you need to purchase used/refurbished panels.

2. Your current inverter cannot accommodate additional solar panels. Thereby — this is what I did when I added nine panels on my roof to charge my Leaf — you need to either add a second inverter or proceed with micro-inverters. Again, securing compatible panels is the next step.

In both scenarios, we are required to perform full design-engineering-permitting for your additional solar capacity. Though this is not complicated, it adds to the cost; it’s not simply lego-esque, snap-a-few-panels-in-and-go.

An additional caveat: Homeowners can only claim the 30% Federal tax credit once every five years. So, if you went solar in the past five years, you may want to wait until you re-qualify for the credit. 

Net-net, we’re happy to help. There’s no cost to receive an assessment of your current system, analysis of your historical net-energy use, modeling of your future electricity demand (for your eV), and an analysis + recommendations for your additional solar capacity. Feel free to contact us or swing my our workspace.

PG&E just raised its rates (again!); what’s going on and what can I do?

Effective March 1, PG&E condensed the tiers of its E-1 residential rate schedule (the tariff most homeowners employ). And, again, electricity rates went up, this time by ~8%. What’s the story and what can I do, if anything?

First, a little background. Every few years, PG&E submits a three-year budget to the California Public Utilities Corp (CPUC), aka, their “rate case”. Therein, they propose myriad rate schedules for commercial, agricultural, residential and other customer groups. The CPUC eventually approves PG&E’s budget, but that’s not the end; over the ensuing three-year period, rate schedules are modified (read: rates are increased) to reflect contemporary PG&E expenses. Over the past two years, PG&E’s residential rates have increased ~43%. Ouch.

Like it or not, inflationary pressures on PG&E’s rates are somewhat just:

  • Replacement of aged infrastructure (e.g., natural gas lines; updated the grid);
  • Retirement of idled assets (e.g., “peaker” power plants; Diablo Canyon);
  • Reduction in generation of inexpensive hydro electricity (due to the drought);
  • AB 32 and the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS); and,
  • Long-term power purchase contracts.

And, living here, we have no choice but to love the one we’re with, at least until Valley Clean Energy Alliance (VCEA) launches. (Side note: PG&E has commenced its fear-and-smear campaign regarding VCEA and community choice energy … it’s gonna get ugly.)

Homeowners have four rate schedules to choose from:

  • E1 (the most common rate): Electricity is priced based on tiers (monthly usage).
  • EV: Time-of-use pricing for electric vehicle owners.
  • E-TOU (A): Time-of-use pricing, with “peak” periods from 3:00-8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • E-TOU (B): Also time-of-use, with peak pricing from 4:00-9:00 p.m.

So, what’s a homeowner to do? Here are a few simple ways to reduce your utility costs:

1. Go to PG&E’s website, log in to your (or create an) account and select “Compare Rate Plans” in the right column. Based on the time and volume of your electricity use, PG&E — such kind souls! — will quantify your costs under the above scenarios and suggest the least expensive rate schedule. More than likely, one of the time-of-use plans will reduce your bill.

2. Change your behavior. No, not your comfort (or the way you live), but your electricity use. Simple things like doing laundry in the morning, on weekends, or after 9:00 p.m. will lower your costs. So too, if you have a pool, will changing the time your pump runs; start it at 11:00 p.m. And, in the summer cool your home in the morning and early afternoon, then turn off your AC at 3:00.

3. Replace incandescent and CFL bulbs with LEDs. This is not even low hanging fruit in the energy savings world; it’s fruit laying on the ground. 

4. If you have a swimming pool, install a variable speed pool pump. Thereby you can reduce the electricity consumed by your pool by ~70%. Davis Home Trends, Leslies and several other stores can lend a hand.

5. If you haven’t done so already, go solar and insulate yourself from future PG&E rate increases. (No duh, eh?)

And, of course, feel free to contact us or stop by. As Jackson Browne once mused, we may not have the answer, but we believe we’ve got a plan.

The coolest organization in our cool city

Sunday, in arms with our comrades Indigo, we had the great honor of hosting Cool Davis’ annual donor celebration. Magnificent vino was poured by Senders Wines and tasty eats were tendered by ChickPeas, tantalizing the palettes of several dozen community leaders. In addition to honoring those committed to enhancing the sustainability of our community, we toasted Indigo's wonderful abode, the first zero net-energy commercial building in Davis (now boasting a beautiful, 46-panel solar array!). A good time was had by all, with special thanks to Judy Moores, Lynne Nittler, Chris Granger and Kerry Daane Loux for their orchestration.

During the event, we shared an update regarding RepowerYolo’s impact, in concert with Cool Davis’ Double Up on Solar Davis campaign. Over the past few years, Repower has helped homeowners install more than 5,500 solar panels. Panel by panel, home by home, the aggregate clean energy impact is pretty cool. Namely, the clean electricity generated by Repower homeowners is the equivalent of: 

- eliminating 16,696 metric tons of carbon dioxide;

- taking 3,519 cars off the road; and,

- planting 429,224 trees

To boot, Repower homeowners are projected to save a cumulative $9,804,774 in PG&E expenses. That makes us smile, and we deeply appreciate the support and confidence of the community.

Back to the coolest organization in our cool city. Cool Davis is the little engine that IS making a difference, proactively fulfilling its mission to "inspire our community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to a changing climate, and improve the quality of life for all.”

Here’s how you can get involved:

1. Act: If you would like a hand reducing your carbon footprint, here are a few examples of how you can take action.

2. Donate: Like all nonprofit organizations, Cool Davis can use your support and we engage you to join Repower in making a contribution. Our assurance: Every dollar Cool Davis raises is invested in pragmatic, impactful measures. 

3. Volunteer: There are myriad ways to get involved, beginning with Cool Davis’ Coalition and Partner forum. Attend and you’ll learn more about last year’s Sustainability Summit, along with recent post election community gatherings on Environmental Justice and Climate Change. Come prepared to work on planning forums, and forming working groups on local policy dialogue and discussing new collaborative projects.

4. Learn: Cool Davis’ website has a wealth of useful tips and tools … click here for the latest news, and here to explore resources.

We are grateful for our collaboration with Cool Davis and their mutual commitment to make Davis a more sustainable place. The time to act is now. Please join us!